Inducible nitric oxide synthase and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors have been shown to participate in nerve cell injury during spinal cord ischemia. This study observed a protective effect of curcumin on ischemic spinal cord injury. Models of spinal cord ischemia were established by ligating the lumbar artery from the left renal artery to the bifurcation of the abdominal aorta. At 24 hours after model establishment, the rats were intraperitoneally injected with curcumin. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical results demonstrated that after spinal cord ischemia, inducible nitric oxide synthase and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor mRNA and protein expression significantly increased. However, curcumin significantly decreased inducible nitric oxide synthase and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor mRNA and protein expression in the ischemic spinal cord. Tarlov scale results showed that curcumin significantly improved motor function of the rat hind limb after spinal cord ischemia. The results demonstrate that curcumin exerts a neuroprotective fect against ischemic spinal cord injury by decreasing inducible nitric oxide synthase and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor expression.